What are great ideas for alumni relationships

Funding and fundraising for political education

(& copy David-W- / photocase.de)

Anyone who offers seminars, specialist days, lectures, training courses or exchange programs in the field of political education wants to make a difference in society - also in the long term. As part of their offers, political education institutions come into contact with numerous people. But all too often the educational formats are one-off or short-term measures, after which the contact ends. There are individual participants who keep coming back and where there is a long-term relationship with the organizer - but what about all the others?

These former participants can be a valuable resource for education providers. You are not only interesting as potential "customers" for offers, but also as partners: You can pass on the knowledge you have acquired and advertise the offers. They can be potential cooperation partners for future projects, volunteer helpers and also donors. In summary: Former participants can contribute in various ways to the fulfillment of the purpose of their own organization. The prerequisite for this, however, is that they actually feel connected to the organization and are motivated to contribute.

Relationships are valuable

The economy has long recognized the value of relationships with customers. "Relationship management" plays an important role in marketing. Every further contact is valuable because it helps to bring the products to the people, to consolidate and strengthen the prestige and positioning on the market.

Organizations in the educational sector such as universities or scholarship programs from foundations or the German Academic Exchange Service also keep in contact with their alumni. They focus on maintaining the networks in order to exchange knowledge and experience, to maintain contacts in professional life, to enable access and to keep the alumni as advocates for the organization.

They do this, for example, by sending out regular newsletters, offering their own online platforms or social media groups for networking, inviting alumni meetings, regular get-togethers, regional groups or special events, or by specifically involving alumni as experts in events. Some large organizations also have regional groups that network and meet on site. The shared, mostly intensive experience, for example during a stay abroad or while studying, connects people and ideally arouses their willingness to share their knowledge, their experiences and their networks with other alumni or society.

Many of these approaches to alumni work can be transferred to former participants in training courses at associations, in conference centers or training centers. Even if the experience is shorter, it can lead to a special bond, for example through a shared interest in a topic, enthusiasm for a method or simply personal sympathies. It is important to maintain and deepen this.

Building a community: relationship management

Relationship management does not necessarily have to be particularly time-consuming and costly, but it is also not a sure-fire success. Darius Polok, Managing Director of the International Alumni Center (iac Berlin), gives the following tip: "The first step is to use the existing contact. We have this when the person comes to us and takes part in our events. When we from among our participants If you want to make long-term partners and want to build a community, a network of togetherness, we not only have to give the participants cognitive impulses at the events. We have to give them first experiences of cooperation and effectiveness and present ourselves as partners. We plan this in the program A. This is also possible without additional expenditure of time or money: It is primarily about a change in the relationship and in communication. "

For Darius Polok, the joint achievement of the organization's statutory objectives is central. He is convinced that many participants in educational offers are intrinsically motivated to pursue the goals themselves. Not everyone always has time and ideas to get involved. But everyone should be informed about the possibilities of networking and cooperation and know who to turn to.

The next step in such professional, long-term alumni work would then be to support and strengthen the self-organization of these motivated alumni. Ideally, communication should no longer be controlled centrally via the organization: "We have to get to the point where there is the possibility that the community members or alumni organize themselves and meet with one another. And for this they need some kind of visibility of the members, for example with a technological solution such as an online platform. We as an organization are then responsible for the infrastructure, for making the almost impossible possible: That people come into contact with one another, share their knowledge and interests and interact with one another come and be able to say at the end: Organization A not only gave me an event, it gave me a network where I can find knowledge, where I can find partners or like-minded people and where someone listens to me. "

Gaining resources through alumni work

Darius Polok strongly advocates an expanded definition of resources: "It is traditionally assumed that the only resource that the community can give us from outside is money. But it is also about time, access and knowledge. And when actions are developed from the community and these are connected to our organization, then that's exactly what we want. It is important to understand that this type of participation is the way to recruit resources nowadays. "

Raising donations can also be one of the goals of alumni work. If an organization does good alumni work, it cultivates contacts and strengthens the affiliation of the alumni and the exchange with each other and with the organization. Such alumni, who are strongly associated with the organization, are also ready to support the organization financially.

Support associations are a possible form of organization in which (former) participants can get involved financially and on a voluntary basis for the goals of the sponsor. In an interview, Wolfgang Ebert reports how it works in practice. Among other things, he has the support association "Regional Office Work and Life for Political Education e.V." brought to life.